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Born In Jerusalem? Your U.S. Passport Can’t Say Israel

U.S. Court invalidates law making ‘Jerusalem, Israel’ a valid place of birth

Romy Zipken
July 24, 2013
Jerusalem. (Wikimedia Commons)
Jerusalem. (Wikimedia Commons)

The U.S. Court of Appeals invalidated a law that allowed American citizens born in Jerusalem—a population numbering around 50,000—to list Israel as their home country on their passports. The court said that the law “impinged on the executive branch’s foreign policy prerogative,” JTA reports. Presidents have historically refrained from answering whether the city of Jerusalem belongs to Israelis or Palestinians.

Presidents George W. Bush and Obama have refused to implement the law, saying it violates longstanding policy that does not recognize any nation’s sovereignty in the city and leaves its status to be decided in peace talks.

Ari and Naomi Zivotofsky filed the case in 2002, Reuters reports. Their son, Menachem, was born a year earlier in Jerusalem and was an American citizen. They asked the court to require that the government enforce the law.

The issue reached the U.S. Supreme Court last year on the preliminary question of whether it was so political that it did not belong in the courts. The high court ruled 8-1 that the case could proceed, setting up Tuesday’s ruling.

But the court did not ultimately rule in favor of the Zivotofsky family. Last year, on the 10th anniversary of the Hebrew University bombings, the mother of one of the nine people killed that day detailed her frustration with the policy to Haaretz.

An example, she explained, can be seen on her son’s death certificate. “It sounds terribly minor, but it really gets to me this time every year. Ben’s death certificate says that he died in Jerusalem, blank. The United States refuses to write that he died in Jerusalem, Israel. Well, the United States acknowledges that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. So, put it on your documents, because my son died because he was in Israel, not because he was in the ‘ethereal Jerusalem.’”

The lawyer for the Zivotofsky case said there would be an appeal forthcoming.

Romy Zipken is a writer and editor at Jewcy. Her Twitter feed is @RomyZipken.